By: Nick Ferwerda
47 Meters Down follows sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) on a Mexican getaway. After a recent break-up with a long-term boyfriend, Lisa wants nothing more than to make him jealous and prove she isn’t the boring individual he made her out to be.
Once her younger, adventurous sister Kate finds out about the break-up, the siblings go out for a night of partying. This is where they meet locals Javier (Chris J. Johnson) and Louis (Yani Gellman), who invite the sisters on an afternoon boating trip that leads them to scuba diving, including some time in a shark cage. While the girls are down in the shark cage, the pulley that is holding them up breaks – they’re plummeted to the bottom of the ocean floor. With less than an hour of oxygen left in there tanks and great white sharks circling the cage, they must work quickly and strategically in order to survive.
What do you get when someone with a deathly fear of open ocean watches a movie that takes place entirely on the ocean floor? One scared film critic – me. I haven’t been properly scared by a movie in a long time. Maybe it was my aforementioned fear of the ocean, but 47 Meters Down does a good job at building and executing suspense. This effective thriller doesn’t rely solely on the creatures of the deep to create tension, and instead incorporates visceral fears (drowning, the unknown) to create a scary atmosphere. Arguably, this is scarier than any monster.
Filmmaker Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door) does a great job at creating an evocatively pleasing film, and he utilizes strong visuals of the ocean floor courtesy of DoP Mark Silk (whose underwater work can also be seen in Pirate Radio and Captain Phillips). Claire Holt (TV’s The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars) and Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, TV’s This Is Us) bring our struggling divers to life with surprising performances, even if Holt’s character is a cliché. Moore, who is known for her work in sensitive vehicles, convinces us that she should star in more thrillers. Co-writers Roberts and Ernest Riera are good at crafting a sense of rare dread, however their exposition-specific dialogue is disappointingly unoriginal. The plot in 47 Meters Down is spoon-fed to the audience when, in fact, it’s an easy movie to follow.
Movie goers who are afraid of the film’s fearful subject matter won’t be able to sit still. However, if you’re game, 47 meters Down is a worthwhile, suspenseful thriller.
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Nick Ferwerda: @NickFerwerda